City Council’s call to action: eyewitness report

by MCFly editor Arwa Aburawa

The Council Executive had its monthly meeting this morning. Climate Change was one of the topics under discussion. Manchester Climate Fortnightly has previously reported on the Council’s summary of the ‘Call to Action’. Rather than rush to judgement, we were waiting for the nitty-gritty details and targets in the main report. Sadly we are going to be waiting a while longer. A spokesperson stated that the “Council will work with its partners and other organisations to draw up a detailed action plan to be approved later in the year…

From the outset there were two main issue which we felt needed to be dealt with: the unspent 1 million Carbon Reduction and Innovation Fund (a story we broke in September 2008) and the so-called ‘Green Airport’. Around 30 minutes were spent on discussing the report and Richard Cowell, the Executive Member for the Environment, summed up his position by stating that

Climate change is the single biggest challenge facing the the world. It demands an international response, but the action we take in Manchester will determine whether the shift to a low-carbon society creates new opportunities for Mancunian families and businesses.

Although this ‘Call to Action’ was labelled as a climate change strategy, it seems pretty clear that the council are following a strict business growth agenda. There was lots of talk of ‘opportunities with economic and business advantages’ and ‘driving the economy forward’.

A Green Airport?

Simon Ashley, leader of the Liberal Democrats, was quick to point out that the ‘Call to Action’ and Manchester’s climate change strategy couldn’t be taken seriously with what he called a “cop-out” with regards to the airport. He went to say that although he recognised that the airport was a great economic driver, it was also a great polluter and this needs to be reconsidered. Ashley also remarked that the excuse that Manchester council couldn’t take unilateral action should be dismissed and that the entire issue needs to be tackled again as “you can’t give the airport a pass.”

[Ashley is part of the Advisory Panel of fifteen (six Labour and nine Liberal Democracts) which can raise issues and ask questions at Executive meetings but can’t vote on the final decision.]

The chair, Sir Richard Leese, who seems recovered from his run-in with car thieves yesterday, replied that they can’t legally constrain the Airport and that if the planes didn’t fly out from Manchester then it would probably be from somewhere else, causing more pollution. Following this logic, extending the airport is the ONLY sensible way to stop more CO2 emissions. At a national level, it seems the Labour Government agrees with him, since all the indications at time of writing are that a third runway will be approved for Heathrow.

All said and done, the Executive stuck by their plans for a ‘Green Airport’ which involves the continued support for the Airport’s growth whilst helping it to achieve its aim of becoming carbon neutral reduction in site energy use and vehicle fuel.

Carbon Reduction and Innovation Fund 1 Million
Again, the issue over why no money has been spent from the Carbon Reduction and Innovation Fund over the last year and a half was raised by the Advisory Panel who stated that there was a need to “start delivering actual programmes”. The response was that the plans were in the full report which was waiting for approval, the chair nevertheless agreed that it was unacceptable.

With regards to this fund the reports says:

The City Council intends to deploy resources from (sic) Fund to help explore options for delivering major public-private investment in energy efficiency low carbon energy infrastructure, including a possible Manchester ESCO (Energy Service Company). It is also envisaged that funding will also be made available to support a proposed Low Carbon Communities pilot and a range of other activities that demonstrate different approaches to realising the benefits of shifting to low carbon.”

The final troubling issue was the lack of clear strategy for measuring outcomes. The full report which analysed the strategies, exhaustively judged their indirect/direct impacts as ‘small’, ‘none’, ‘significant’ and even ‘unquantifiable’. A council spokesperson noted that

“These actions will not of themselves achieve deep cuts in carbon, but they will give rise to the mainstream understanding, partnerships, vision and capacity across the city to hit the City’s target of a reduction of in excess of a million tonnes while securing economic and other advantage, and to be ahead of the curve.”

Here’s the full report:

An unofficial hyper-linked version of the Executive Summary and a 2-page ‘Bluffers guide’ which decodes the report can be seen here: http://www.manchesterclimateforum.org.uk/calltoaction.html

For background and analysis see MCFly 15: http://www.manchesterclimatefortnightly.info/mcfy015.pdf

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About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
This entry was posted in Call to Action, Manchester Airport, Manchester City Council, Simon Ashley, Sir Richard Leese. Bookmark the permalink.

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